24 December: Chichen Itza, the Capital of the Mayan Civilization

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Deadly Football Game of Ancient Maya

We woke up at 7.30 and rushed to Chichen Itza to beat the crowd that will come in Sunday. Then we had coffee in front of Chichen Itza main office.

First we went to the football court where the two teams compete to have one of the team sacrificed. The first ruin we saw was El Gran Juego de Pelota, the largest ballcourt in Mesoamerica. Archaeologist believed that the losing team were sacrificed (got their heads chopped off and offered to Gods). Imagine if the World Cup uses the same system. Zidane would not have just butt-headed the Italians! And Ronaldinho would have bitten the opponent's ears off to avoid losing. The acoustics of the football court is amazing. If you stand on each end of the court, you can hear other person's talking on the other end. And if you make sound inside the court, it will be echoed exactly seven times. There is significance of the number seven.



Afterwards we went to see a carving of eagle and jaguar eating human hearts. The place is called Platforma de las Aguilas y los Jaguares.



El Castillo: When a Clap produces Eagle's Squawk

What was fascinating was El Castillo, the largest and the tallest pyramid on the site, making it stand out as centerpoint in the lost civilization of Chichen Itza. On each side it has 91 steps and 1 main step at the top making it 364 + 1 = 365. Although the largest on site, this pyramid is still much smaller than the pyramid of the sun in Teotihuacan made by the Aztecs. Just like Teotihuacan, the entire city of Chichen Itza was built according to astronomical calculations. Very precise engineering allows the image of snake creeping up the steps on El Castillo during the summer solstice. When you stand about 50 meters away in line with the centerline and clap your hands, the 91 steps would reflect the sound to produce canon-like echos that sounded just like an eagle screeching from afar. Quite amazing!



Among other things on site, we were fascinated by they way they planned the city to accommodate the infrastructures as well as the collection of rainwater for consumption.

On East and West sides of the city were cenotes (massive well) that led to an underground river system. I heard the Yucatan peninsula has no river but an underground caves delivering water from the highlands to the lowlands. Some cenotes were as big as 50 meter in diameter and over 40 meter deep. In fact, there was one cenote called Ik Kil across from where we stay. Perhaps we should try it tomorrow.



Noe was too tired to complete the entire trail so we returned to the hotel after we have completed the structures full of massive round columns called Plaza de las Mil Columnas, which was believed to be the gathering place of the important individuals of the Mayan community.



Christmas in Mayan Mexican Village

We spent the rest of the afternoon with a siesta following Noe's sleepy head. Following the nap, we went for a swim at the limestone floored pool at the north side of the hotel Dolores Alba.


We went to have dinner downtown, and we saw Santa Claus riding an old Volkswagen getting gifts from the toy shop and went out to deliver the gifts to the houses. His car was blaring loud Mexican pop songs. We met a French family who were staying in the same hotel with me, and also a French game developer and his pharmacist wife who are working in San Diego.

From the dinner place, we walked towards the town square to look for a church. We don't celebrate Christmas but were curious to know how Mexicans observe the evening before 25th. In the sleepy town of Piste, located about 6km from where we stayed, we managed to see a congregation at the local catholic church in the town centre, or zocalo. The church was simple and seemed to have been built in the 1980s. They were singing "donna donna donna" or something and Noe was busy playing with three Mayan boys named Xavier, Tony and Chucho who were fascinated by Yodhi's 3CCD cam. There was a very old church just a stone throw away but it was completely empty and a bit run down, standing as a memorial or some sort. We did not stay too long and decided to return to hotel around 10pm.



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